PERSPECTIVE: Can a global creative director impinge on a monolithic client?

Go on. Admit it. Be honest with yourself. When you look at the face of Derek Day, the remarkably youthful-looking new global creative director on Unilever at J. Walter Thompson, and you read his ’I don’t have to work, I’ve got pounds 5 million in the bank’ comment on page 23 of this week’s Campaign, you are filled with nothing but envy and rage that you didn’t have the gumption to go and start an agency yourself.

Go on. Admit it. Be honest with yourself. When you look at the face

of Derek Day, the remarkably youthful-looking new global creative

director on Unilever at J. Walter Thompson, and you read his ’I don’t

have to work, I’ve got pounds 5 million in the bank’ comment on page 23

of this week’s Campaign, you are filled with nothing but envy and rage

that you didn’t have the gumption to go and start an agency

yourself.



Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the current theories on

global creative directors. At least three are on offer.



The first, with a definite whiff of sinecure about it, says that global

creative director is a job with huge status on paper and no status in

reality. The incumbents are lone trouble-shooters who jet off somewhere,

make a few comments on the work, have dinner on the agency and head off

again. And six months later the work is exactly the same.



The second theory is a less cynical version of the first. One person who

is nominally in charge of all output, a heavyweight creative guru who

sets high standards either by example or by using internal award schemes

and regular creative reviews. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the

networks who have such figures - Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA

spring to mind - are the ones who came out on top of the awards league

at Cannes this year.



Then there is a newer kind of global creative figure, the Derek Day kind

who dedicate themselves to one client but have access to the best

account teams around the world. This is clearly a valid model: having

encouraged networks to mirror their own marketing structures on global

account handling, clients have every right to expect similar changes

creatively. (On the issue of whether it’s rewarding for someone who

already has pounds 5 million stashed away for a rainy day, well, that’s

another column altogether.)



There are two ’buts’ here. But does the world’s second biggest

advertiser really want to buy more creative work? There’s plenty of

cause for optimism - mostly because Unilever’s chairman, Niall

FitzGerald, is firmly in revolutionary mode. Along with the intention to

focus on roughly 400 of its 1,600 brands, there is his much publicised

desire to run bolder advertising. There’s no better evidence for this

than the drip-drip of Unilever brands (Impulse, Lynx, Ragu, Batchelors

Super Noodles etcetera) from the dying Ammirati Puris Lintas to other

agencies and hotshops before its merger with Lowes.



The second ’but’ is whether Day will be able to surmount the built-in

contradiction in the role. Strong networks such as JWT have strong

creative directors in most markets, but strong creative directors aren’t

usually so keen on taking advice from someone with the words ’global’

and ’creative director’ in their job title, are they?



caroline.marshall@haynet.com



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